Gustav Mahler was considered one of the greatest opera conductors of his time; he could even be called the first intercontinental star conductor. But that was not the case with his music; until the 1960s, his compositions were only performed by specialists, the pieces nowhere near belonging to the standard repertoire.
Today, however, performances of Mahler’s music rival those of Beethoven’s in frequency, thus counting Mahler among the most successful symphonists. What happened to cause that change?
Gustav Mahler: The Conductors’ Interviews, edited by Wolfgang Schaufler, is a book that seeks to answer that question with the aid of interviews with the great Mahler conductors of our day. Twenty-nine conductors were interviewed, including Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Gustavo Dudamel, Lorin Maazel, Kent Nagano, Simon Rattle and Michael Tilson Thomas. The discussions range from Mahler’s reception by audiences in different countries to the way his audiences gradually came to understand his aesthetic as an expression of the modern human condition, its longings and its aspirations.